Migrants reach Lampedusa | Photo: Elio Desiderio / ANSA
Migrants reach Lampedusa | Photo: Elio Desiderio / ANSA

A four-year-old girl has reached Lampedusa without her family on an overcrowded migrant boat. Her parents and sister were left behind in Tunisia after the boat left in a hurry. A children's rights activist brought attention to the case on social media.

The Tunisian girl traveled for 25 hours at sea together with roughly 70 people between Sunday and Monday (October 16-17) before reaching Lampedusa.

One of the passengers on the boat -- a Tunisian man -- reportedly took care of the girl during the crossing.

After arriving on Lampedusa, the little girl was transferred to Porto Empedocle, in Sicily, via ferry with the support of a social worker, and alongside 110 other migrants.

Save the Children's team on Lampedusa initially provided assistance and support to the little girl, "welcoming her, listening to her and responding to her needs" while immediately reporting the case to authorities, said the organization's spokeswoman Giovanna Di Benedetto.

"We believe it is fundamental for her case to be immediately taken care of so her protection and safety are ensured", she added, calling for the "immediate activation of measures" enabling her family to join her.

Read more: Tunisia: Economic crisis drives dangerous migrant journeys to Europe

Family left behind due to panic during departure

Her mother, father and seven-year-old sister had reportedly been unable to make it onto the boat and were left behind on the beach of Mahdia in Tunisia.

Majdi Karbai -- who was elected to the Tunisian Parliament in 2019 and who is currently living in Italy where he works for Save the Children -- wrote about the case on Twitter.

He said that a panic during the departure caused the boat to leave early, seperating the family.

Parents arrested, accused of human trafficking

The parents have since been arrested by Tunisian authorities, according to a report by Italian state TV broadcaster Rai News and Tweets by Majdi Karbai. The parlamentarian tweeted on Wednesday evening (October 19) that the mother and father of the girl had been arrested. On Thursday, he said that the attorney general of Monastir would decide whether they would remain in custody and that they faced charges of abandoning a minor and of human trafficking. He commented that the situation was "absurd."


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